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4th C.D.: Way is clear for Conservative 'opportunity to ballot'

Despite earlier legal efforts by the Francis X. Becker congressional campaign, backed by Nassau's GOP organization, to avert possible competition from Frank Scaturro for the Conservative Party nomination, it seems Scaturro will be permitted to compete for the minor-party line on an "opportunity-to-ballot" write-in basis.

Scaturro issued this extensive statement earlier today:

On Wednesday, congressional candidate Fran Becker withdrew a lawsuit he filed in the state Supreme Court, Nassau County, that attempted to invalidate opportunity to ballot petitions authorizing a Conservative Party write-in primary for New York’s Fourth Congressional District. The petitions had been circulated by supporters of Frank Scaturro, the Republican candidate for New York’s Fourth Congressional District who is facing Becker in a Republican primary on June 26. Becker’s lawsuit was withdrawn with prejudice, which ensures that a Conservative write-in primary for Congress will go forward on June 26.

In 2010, Scaturro won a majority vote of the Nassau Conservative Party’s executive committee to get a Wilson-Pakula, which according to state election law mandated a Conservative Party primary against Becker. The party chairman, however, refused to file the authorization with the board of elections, denying Conservative Party voters the opportunity to vote in a primary. According to members of the executive committee at the time, votes in opposition to Scaturro stemmed from a fear of losing jobs if ballot access were granted to a candidate not endorsed by GOP Chairman Mondello. In 2012, realizing that the Nassau Conservative chairman would not even give him a screening, Scaturro launched a write-in campaign, and supporters circulated opportunity to ballot petitions to authorize the primary.

“The county Conservative Party chairman’s refusal even to consider giving Nassau County’s Conservative voters the chance to choose their candidate is regrettable,” Scaturro noted, “but ironically, our campaign finds itself in a stronger position than in 2010, when the rug was pulled out from under us at the end of petition season and we were left with no chance for a primary election. This time, we were able to prepare for a write-in primary—which does not require a Wilson-Pakula authorization.”

The opportunity to ballot initiative for Scaturro was successful: More signatures were collected for the opportunity to write in Scaturro’s name on primary day (296) than were collected in the standard Conservative nominating petitions that were circulated for Becker (269). In contrast to Becker primarily using Republican notaries to collect his Conservative ballots, Scaturro’s opportunity to ballot initiative were collected primarily by members of the Conservative Party. It was therefore surprising to the Scaturro campaign when Becker filed a lawsuit attempting to invalidate the opportunity to ballot petitions—and thus to prevent any sort of Conservative Party primary on June 26. The lawsuit, which was filed on April 30 by Becker through the law firm Bee Ready Fishbein Hatter & Donovan, on its face raised more questions than its allegations purported to answer. For instance, the most common objection was that a “Signature does not match Nassau [Board of Elections] records.” In order to make the comparison between petition signatures and board of elections records, a party generally must file a FOIL request with the board to see those records. However, according to Patricia Friedman, a respondent in the lawsuit who conducted a review of inquiries at the board, no such request was ever conducted. That in turn raises the questions: Who if anyone conducted such a search? And do the rules regarding access to Board of Elections records apply only to some and not to others?

Moreover, why was the lawsuit withdrawn just over a week after it was filed?

Scaturro asserted, “I am glad to see that this time, the Conservative voters of the Fourth Congressional District will find the polls open to them on primary day. But I regret the time and money that my opponent and party leaders wasted in the quest to have a more closed political process in which voters are denied a voice in the nomination process. I look forward to the day when those who love this country and make the sacrifices necessary to build a campaign for public office receive encouragement rather than discouragement, and have their success rewarded rather than punished by party leaders. Our campaign stands against the arrogance that closes the political process and demoralizes those who seek honesty and independence from party bosses.”

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